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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
The Observer

Holy Cross sports teams discuss seasons, look to year's goals

Men’s Basketball

Head coach and interim director of athletics Mike McBride is heading into his seventh year at the helm of the team. During his tenure, he has turned the program around and been able to develop a team that advanced to the CCAC tournament four times in the last five years. The team will begin their new season with scrimmages Tuesday against Ancilla and Bethel College. 

McBride spoke on his squad’s dynamic and how he has been able to turn the tide.

“The most important thing I think we’ve established had been a really good culture around the team that has developed and grown and been passed along, year to year,” he said.  “The very best programs are always player-led. They pass on the core values of our program.” 

McBride also spoke on the importance of fundamentals and skill development. 

“There’s not a day goes by that we don't work on skill development,” he said. “The term we use is brilliance in the basics — we want to be great in the basic things and that sounds simple, it’s not pretty, it’s not glamorous. But we work really hard at developing our players’ individual games fundamentally and skill-wise." 

McBride touched on the goals he has for his squad coming into the new season.

“We have some destination goals,” McBride said. “We want to compete at the top of the league, put ourselves in position to win it and ultimately win it — regular season and conference tournament. Regular season and conference tournament we want to get into the national tournament. But again, all those are destination goals, meaning that if we don’t do day-by-day what it takes to prepare and improve for those things we’ll never arrive at that destination. Our daily focus is always getting better going 1-0 each day. Getting a little better individually and the fundamentals like we mentioned earlier, getting a little bit better system-wise, understanding how we play and executing it and getting a little bit better as a team in terms of growing closer. If we do that day-by-day then those other things kind of become byproducts of that. We talk about [season goals] but we don’t belabor them, they’re not the thing we put right in front of us. Right in front of us — as cliche as it sounds — is the improvement day-by-day we have to build upon over the course of the entire season, or we’ll never be in a position to reach those destination goals.”

The team will tip off its season Tuesday against Bethel College at 5 p.m. in the Pfeil Center. That scrimmage will be followed by one between Bethel and Ancilla College. The Saints will then return to the court to take on Ancilla after the conclusion of their opponents matchup.  

Women’s Basketball 

Last year, the Saints recorded their best season on record, tallying 16 wins and 16 losses. The program hired head coach Tom Robbins over the summer. Robbins brings 17 years of coaching experience to the table; although the team is going through a rebuilding phase, Robbins seems like the perfect man for the job. He comes to Holy Cross after serving as the head women’s basketball coach at Ancilla College, where he turned a team that had won just six games in three years into a national contender.

Robbins discussed how he manages to make mediocre teams achieve greatness.

“A change in the culture of expectations is a big deal,” he said. “We want the kids to [have] a hunger to win basketball games, that is the focus. I didn’t have to worry about that at Ancilla because they hadn’t won and everybody really wanted to win because they were tired of losing. The biggest concern here [at Holy Cross] is they did get to the .500 mark last year so there is a tendency to be satisfied with that. So my first focus was for us not to be satisfied with where we are at and try to build towards having winning seasons and consistent winning seasons. Changing our culture of work ethic and expectations and the amount of energy and enthusiasm we bring to each day that we practice, each day we’re together as a team has been a focus.”  

Robbins said the players’ chemistry and dynamic is also great.

“We don’t have personalities that conflict and you can have that a lot on a team and you have to learn how to deal with that,” Robbins said. “We don’t have that, we’re just naturally blessed with individuals whose personalities mesh well together and that has been great. That has helped us get a lot of work done. We haven’t had to get bogged down in other issues. We’ve been able to stay to the process, to the course of getting our work done and progressing in what we need to in our offensive and our defensive systems and that sort of thing because we haven’t had to worry about other things and distractions.”

The players also respond well to coaching, Robbins said.  

“They want to know what our expectations are and they are trying to meet them so that dynamic has been really good,” he said. “One issue we do have is we only have 10 players this year. We lost a few players with just the natural situation of having a coaching change, the adjustment that you have from losing a coach. We originally had six freshmen coming in and we only have three. So only having 10 players is really a thin squad. The positive about it is all 10 of them can play at this level there is nobody that is not ready to play at this level, they all have the talent to do it.” 

The Saints will begin their season with a scrimmage against Robbin’s previous squad, Ancilla College, this weekend on Saturday in the Pfeil Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. 

Men’s Soccer 

The Holy Cross men’s soccer squad (7-3-2, 3-2-2 CCAC) has completed the first half of their season with a winning record despite their last two games resulting in draws. The Saints failed to continue their six game win streak when they took a loss to Governor’s State (6-5, 3-4 CCAC) in late September and lost only their third game of the season at the hands of Roosevelt University (8-4, 6-1 CCAC) on Oct. 1. 

The Saints were able to notch a win against the 25th ranked team in the country in Cardinal Stritch (7-4, 5-1 CCAC). The Saints were led by sophomore midfielder Axel Valenzuela who contributed on all of the goals scored on the day. He scored the first goal of the match just two minutes into the game off an assist from senior forward Luis Correa-Cabral, and he would go on to notch three assists on the day. 

The next two matches for the Saints against Olivet Nazarene University Tigers (4-5-4, 3-3-1 CCAC) and the University of Saint Francis Fighting Saints (IL) (7-3-3, 4-2-1 CCAC) resulted in 220 total minutes without a score. Despite the matches being uneventful for fans, the Saints can come away from the games with some positives. Junior goalkeeper Lewis Tomlinson would make eight saves against the Tigers and would go on to set a career high of 14 saves against the Fighting Saints. 

Women’s Soccer 

The Holy Cross women’s soccer team has also put together an outstanding year in contrast to years past. The Saints recorded a win against Roosevelt University (1-7-2, 0-6-1 CCAC) on Oct. 2 in Chicago. The only goal of the match came from freshman midfielder Ma'Elena Perez-Garcia in the 42nd minute. The win over Roosevelt would mark the first time in program history that the team has recorded five wins in a season. 

The Saints would then fall 1-2 to Cardinal Stritch University at home on Oct. 5. Despite jumping out to an early lead with a goal from Cernak, assisted by junior defender Audrey Filippo in the 20th minute, the Saints were unsuccessful in closing out the match. Cardinal Stritch responded with a goal of their own 17 minutes after Cernak’s score. And in heartbreaking fashion, the Saints gave up a goal in the 88th minute when Cardinal Stritch’s freshman midfielder Kira Schuster found the back of the net to win the game. 

The Saints then lost another home match to Olivet Nazarene University (10-2, 7-0 CCAC) on Oct. 8 despite junior goalkeeper Chole Kane’s 10 saves on the day. The Saints were outshot 18-5 on the day and the two goals scored by Olivet Nazarene were both in the last 10 minutes of play. 

The Saints were able to jump back up to .500 on the season with a 3-1 win against the University of Saint Francis on the road. Saint Francis jumped out to an early lead, but Lauren Cernak was able to tally two scores in the second half to put the Saints up 2-1. Her first goal came in the 47th minute and was assisted by junior midfielder Eleanor Boothman. Her next goal came in the 55th minute with the assist credited to freshman midfielder Nicole Cook. Freshman midfielder Olivia Shaw would put the game away in the 89th minute with an unassisted goal. 

The Saints will travel to Trinity International University (6-4, 4-1 CCAC) Wednesday to try and improve on their record-breaking season. 

Men’s Golf

The Saints travelled to Ravisloe Country Club in Homewood, Illinois, where they played host to the CCAC Cup. The Saints had won the Cup in the last two years, but their streak was halted by the fantastic play of Olivet Nazarene. The Saints had three men finish in the top 10 on the field. Senior Blake Vise led the way, winning the tournament in terms of individual scoring, shooting a 72 in the first round and a 71 in the second. Freshman Walker Reyes and sophomore Camden Dal Corobbo followed closely behind, both carding scores of 147 to tie for 9th place. 

Next the Saints will travel to Kohler, Wisconsin for the Taylor Invite at Whistling Straits on Oct. 21. 

Women’s Golf

The Holy Cross women’s golf team also travelled to Ravisloe Country Club to compete in the CCAC Cup. The Saints ended up in 5th place and were led by freshman Kaitlyn Vazquez, who finished 3rd overall in the tournament by shooting an 84 on the first day and an 80 in the second round. Freshman Rachel Scherer and sophomore Madison Pool both carded scores of 183 to tie for 15th place. 

The Saints will conclude their fall season when they travel to Kohler, Wisconsin for the Taylor Invite at Whistling Straits starting on Oct. 21.